7 Tips for Becoming a Roadie

02.5.2008 | 7:31 pm

A Note from Fatty: I’ve got a new article on BikeRadar today. You can read a preview below, or click here to read the full article.

As a mountain biker, you have no doubt noticed an entirely different kind of rider from time to time: the road cyclist. You have probably heard that many pro mountain bikers train on the road, due to the improved power, stamina, and pedaling technique road cycling yields.

Perhaps you’ve noticed how elegant and svelte a good road bike looks, and have thought to yourself: "I wouldn’t mind riding on the road."

Well, good for you.

However, my mountain biking friend, there are seven vital things you should know before you hit the road, so to speak.

1. Your bike is different.
As a mountain biker, you are used to putting your back into it when you need to lift the thing onto a bike rack, over a log, or so forth. My own preferred method is to use the "Clean and Jerk." If you use similar force when lifting a road bike, there’s a good chance you’ll accidentally throw it over a building.

Also, you need to pump the tires up harder. Much harder. No, even harder than that. Generally, in fact, it takes the weight of two or three "roadies" (an endearing term road cyclists like to call themselves) to push down hard enough on a standard floor pump to get the tires to the proper pressure.

How do you know when a road tire is inflated to the proper pressure? The answer is simple: it’s hard enough when one single more stroke of the pump will blow it off the rim. The real art is, naturally, in knowing whether you’ve reached that point.

2. The terrain is different.
When you are mountain biking, you naturally are inclined to look for interesting obstacles to ride over — roots, rocks, fallen logs are all part of the fun. On a road bike, on the other hand, anything but perfectly smooth pavement is a potentially life-threatening danger, and must be avoided at all costs. Further, if you are ahead of another cyclist, you must use elaborate hand gestures to indicate that there is — horrors! — a pebble 75 metres up the road.

3. Words you know have different meanings.
Since roadies and mountain bikers have a common heritage, it’s no surprise that they share some vocabulary. It’s also no surprise that the variance in meaning in some of that vocabulary can get you into trouble.

For example, if a mountain biker says a ride is "technical," you can assume that there is loose shale, several ledge drops, high-penalty (e.g., death) exposure on one side of the trail, or slick, mossy roots twisting along the singletrack. If a roadie calls a ride "technical," on the other hand, it most likely means that there is a roundabout somewhere in the ride.

As a second example, when a mountain biker talks about going on a "group ride," it means that a bunch of friends got together, regrouped at junctures of the ride, talked as they were riding, and probably had a beer or twelve together after the ride. When roadies have a "group ride," on the other hand, riders are expected to ride in a tight formation, paying strict attention to the gap between your front tire and the rear wheel ahead of you. the gap should be no more than four inches. After the obligatory ten minute warmup, it becomes each rider’s dual purpose to drop every other rider, while not being dropped yourself.

4. Beware of triathletes.
As a mountain biker, you’ve always been deeply suspicious of triathletes. As a road cyclist, you will find out you were correct to be so, and you will find out why. Triathletes will try to infiltrate your ranks and join your rides, then demonstrate that they have no idea of how to ride in a group, and very little control of their direction of travel.

Most importantly, though, they wear these short shorts and tank tops that are just plain creepy.

Click here to continue reading 7 Tips for Becoming a Roadie at BikeRadar.com.

PS: I’m tempted to apologize for opening the door to political discussion yesterday — something I’ve carefully avoided ’til recently — especially since I was in an all-day meeting and was unable to monitor and moderate comments. However, I just noticed that I made three times as much from my ads as I usually do (which, by the way, means I’d be able to use my blog income to buy lunch at Chipotle instead of from the Wendy’s dollar menu), so instead, I’m thinking I’ll start doing politically-inclined posts more often!

PPS: Just kidding. About doing more political can-o-worms posts, I mean.


  1. Comment by KanyonKris | 02.5.2008 | 9:42 pm

    Happy Fat Tuesday!

    Good post, Fatty! I took up road cycling only 2 years ago so I recognized that learning curve.

  2. Comment by phaty | 02.6.2008 | 1:42 am

    If God wanted us to ride bikes on the road we wouldn’t grow hair on our legs!

  3. Comment by Ant | 02.6.2008 | 2:33 am

    Should a mountain biker who occasionally ride on the road, even more occasionally with other ‘roadies’ – shave their legs?

    I can’t decipher the looks of disgust I keep getting when I roll up for the Sat morning buch ride.

    Or maybe it’s the XTR jersey I’m wearing, or my stubborn refusal to remove the sun visor from my helmet.

    Rules, there needs to be rules for these situations!

  4. Comment by Mike Roadie | 02.6.2008 | 3:56 am

    Mardi Gras—-is it still going on if you haven’t been to sleep yet????

  5. Comment by Big Boned | 02.6.2008 | 4:37 am

    Fatty – Excellent. Enjoy the Chipotle! That sounds so good I’d head down there myself today if I wasn’t competing in my personal B8 challenge. I’m starting from a better (lighter) place this year so I’m hoping to get into the 170’s…

    Ant – Next time roll up with hairy legs, a visor, baggy shorts, and MTB pedals/shoes and take all your pulls – that’ll get them talking (behind your back)!

  6. Comment by fatty | 02.6.2008 | 5:52 am

    ant – it’s ok to have hairy legs and mtb clothes on for a road ride, but only if you also have a syringe sticking out of one of your arms.

  7. Comment by Little1 | 02.6.2008 | 5:52 am

    hee hee hee! love the “pebble in the road” my husband takes great glee in slapping his thigh and pointing even when we’re driving just to take the p*ss out of me!

  8. Comment by isela | 02.6.2008 | 6:48 am

    hahahaha, this was hilarious! (I tried leaving a post on the article, but the website is not allowing me for some reason). Anyways, it was brilliant! Great, great laugh.

    btw: I am a beginner roadie and I am quite familiar with the butt watching position, lol

  9. Comment by Maggi | 02.6.2008 | 7:08 am

    Another great article– I had to forward the link around to my co-irkers after they heard me laughing at my desk. Everyone wanted to know what was so damn funny (and I only got one response of, “Oh god, it’s another bike thing.” I’ll convert these desk jockeys yet!)

  10. Comment by Anonymous | 02.6.2008 | 8:01 am

    LOL! As a mountain biker and a (gasp) roadie this was a great read; especially as I’m travelling with a pure roadie at the moment.
    as for the question of hairy legs at the group road ride – they really love it when you show up with hairy legs, visored helmet, and XTR jersey, then proceed to rip their legs off!

  11. Comment by je | 02.6.2008 | 10:20 am

    as a mediocre roadie (I’ve got about a dozen races on my belt) and a novice triathlete (I’ve got 4 in the books) I take umbrage with your implication that I can’t ride in a group. All I have to do is pedal along for five minutes and the group has dropped me. Then I don’t get in anyone’s way and I catch up at the top of the mountain or at the Starbucks.

    Also, I need lunch at chipotle, too. Friday sounds like a good time to make the trip to that part of town.

  12. Comment by Zak | 02.6.2008 | 11:03 am

    As a “Hard Core Roadie” who periodically dives into short mountain biking trips I feel your pain. I never know what I’m doing on a bike with suspension and the occasional tree root sends me into a hand signaling and obstacle pointing frenzy. The trick is to ride mountain bikes with road jerseys to really throw them off. A vintage US postal maillot jaune with an aero helmet will do fine.

  13. Comment by rich | 02.6.2008 | 11:33 am

    freakin hilarious!!!
    Love the comment about needing two or three roadies to get the pressure on a road bike tire….
    Good stuff!
    Among my mt bike friends I’m considered “lean” among my roadie buddies, I’m a “clydesdale” so I always have to help pump up the tires

  14. Comment by bikesgonewild | 02.6.2008 | 11:46 am

    …attitude, attitude, attitude…you forgot to mention the attitude…

    …i spent good money for the ‘carmumble training systems’ road cycling attitude video & it has greatly enhanced my ability to look down my nose at not only lesser forms of cycling disciplines, but also those newbies on road bikes ‘not as cool as MY bike’…

    …i fully recommend it, as it even has a section that teaches how to safely store your attitude should you feel the need to indulge in an mtb or cyclo-cross ride…

    …two thumbs up…worth every penny…
    …because attitude is SO important…

  15. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.6.2008 | 12:20 pm

    Ooow, ow, owww. I feel the sarcasm and it are me.

    Steve, mostly roadie

    P.S. FWIW, I corrected the spelling of your name at http://portland08.livestrong.org/stevpete , Fatty. Sorry about that.

  16. Comment by Ant | 02.6.2008 | 12:38 pm

    He he I do actually run MTB pedals on the road bike, forgot to mention that particular crime against nature.
    As for smashing their legs off, well, not this little black duck unfortunately. Maybe the leg shaving, appropriate jersey, and ‘proper’ road shoes and pedals would translate into the extra wattage that I so desperately need!

  17. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 02.6.2008 | 12:58 pm

    Fatty – Do those of us who commented yesterday get a commission for the higher ad revenue? ;-)

    As a roadie who is constantly looking 10 feet in front of my wheel for pebbles, sticks, glass, chunks of asphalt, tire bits, road kill, screws, nails, bottles, potholes, etc., today’s post was hilarious!

    Oh, and we roadies also get to enjoy traffic signals! Joy!

  18. Comment by blinddrew | 02.6.2008 | 1:18 pm

    As a roadie and mtb’r i’d just like to say: Triathletes are freaks! I mean, sure some of them are good guys and all, but they’re still freaks…

  19. Comment by Lori | 02.6.2008 | 1:47 pm

    A bit of advice, please

    I am a beginner and by beginner, I mean that last year I bought a bike ($400, which at the time seemed like an awful lot of cash for a bike) to help with weight loss. Now I know that my bike was better suited for riding to the grocery store or for puling my nieces around in the trailer. But now, I am ready to get a REAL bike.

    I work on the road and most of my time is spent in south Florida. Not a lot of mountains or even hills for that matter. So I am looking for a road bike. I am 5′1″ so I am also looking for women-specific design. I have been leaning toward Specialized WSD Ruby Triple Comp. Any advice?

  20. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 02.6.2008 | 2:01 pm

    Hi Lori,

    I live in Central Florida and went through the same path. Had a Trek hybrid, did a 43 mile ride on it and promptly stored it in the garage and bought a Specialized Allez Elite. :-)

    I think the best advice you can get for buying your first road bike is just to go to multiple bike shops and try different bikes.

    For me, every other bike I tried just didn’t quite feel right, but the Allez just seemed to “fit like a glove”.

    And the specs on the Ruby Triple Comp look really good. I would not go below the Shimano 105 components.

    I think you’ll know which one is right when you test it out. :-)

  21. Comment by TomE | 02.6.2008 | 2:14 pm

    Fatty…what’s up with the website??? When I open it, the first blog entry is not at the top. I see only blank white space and have to scroll down to read. Everything else is in place.

    Congrats on your Leadville entry. Sadly I didn’t get in this year.

  22. Comment by graisseux | 02.6.2008 | 2:40 pm

    It looks like the Chipotle restaurants are on a southward trend; first one was in Bountiful, then two in the Salt Lake area and now one in Sandy. Hopefully one’ll make it to Provo/Orem soon. Although that would kill any hope of me ever losing any weight.

    You probably don’t even have to write politically oriented articles. Just throw in an arbitray smattering of politically charged keywords in all your posts.

    By the way, I liked the Bike Radar article.

  23. Comment by je | 02.6.2008 | 3:19 pm

    Come on, people. Don’t be so hard on the triathletes.

    Triathletes are just road cyclist that also know how to swim.

  24. Comment by je | 02.6.2008 | 3:20 pm

    Oh, and triathletes also just need something else to do with their time trial bikes to justify the expense of having one.

  25. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.6.2008 | 4:28 pm

    je – please read this informative article before you go jumping to conclusions:


  26. Comment by S_H | 02.6.2008 | 4:48 pm

    Good column! However, I’m disturbed by your use of “metres” and “roundabouts.” Keep it real, keep it ‘Murcan, yo! ;)

  27. Comment by bikesgonewild | 02.6.2008 | 6:37 pm

    …lori, i would agree w/ bryan(not that one)…don’t be intimidated by the bike shop experience…try different wsd concepts from various companies…while bikes can be adjusted, some bikes just seem to fit or feel better to certain people…weigh the advice you are being given but remember, YOU are gonna ride it more if its right for YOU…,

    …a good shop will work to answer or even anticipating the questions that you, as a newbie might have…

    …the best piece of advice that i’ve given throughout the years, is something you’ve kinda already discovered on your own…

    …think about paying a little more than what you initially might be comfortable with…chances are you’ll be happier 6 months down the road…

    …& no, i’m not a shop guy, (but i did stay at a holiday inn last night) sorry, my bad, too much tv…i did work in the industry years ago & of all the people i’ve given that advice to, literally no one has ever complained that i steered them wrong…

  28. Comment by fatty | 02.6.2008 | 8:37 pm

    lori, i don’t think i have any advice beyond what bikesgonewild and bryan (not that one) have. i’ll second their recommendation that you buy a better bike than you think you’ll need, because it’s worth it. i will also say that when i steered a friend toward a specialized allez elite (like bryan’s), he thanked me for it later; it’s a great bike for the money. specialized is the honda of the bike industry.

  29. Comment by Lori | 02.7.2008 | 6:16 am

    Thanks for all of the advice! Now, wish me luck in convincing my husband that a few thousand $$$ isn’t really all that much to spend on a bike!

  30. Comment by je | 02.7.2008 | 11:37 am

    put on a nice pair of bib-chamois and your hubby might write check himself.

  31. Comment by Big Mike the Bike Rider | 02.7.2008 | 5:27 pm

    This is my first time on your site and my eyes still sting from crying. I’ve developed Carpal Tunnel from paging through page after page of your blog and I think my wife just filed for divorce because she thinks I’m having an on-line affair!
    I’m wasting valuable reading time while I post this comment-better get back to your archives.
    As a fellow Clydesdale rider of both road and MTB-I can certainly appreciate your posting.

    Big Mike

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  34. Comment by Lenee | 08.13.2010 | 6:43 pm

    The spandex cyclist is SO NOT SEXY… Another reason mountian bikers are so hot!!
    Chics don’t dig spandex cyclist!!!


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